This episode carries the seeds of many future developments, both for the story-line and for some of the characters.
Not to mention that it introduces my second favorite villain after Bester: the ineffable Mr. Morden.
This mysterious character arrives on the station to meet with the resident ambassadors, asking – repeatedly – a very peculiar question: "What do you want?" Soon it becomes clear that the question is a test to determine if the person being interviewed is the right one for Morden's purposes – and his employers', of course, although this is a matter for the future...
Delenn's reaction to her visitor makes it clear that Morden is a suspicious character, to say the least: apart from the odd triangle that appears on her forehead (a symbol for the triluminary?), she sees the man shrouded in shadow (hint... hint...) and orders him to leave. As she utters "They are here!" we know that something momentous is about to happen.
On a small side note about this scene, we see that Delenn is building something out of crystal shapes: a recurring theme that will see its fruition in the season's last episode.
G'Kar is merely puzzled and annoyed when addressed with the question "What do you want?", but just as Morden is about to leave he changes his mind. The recent encounter with Londo in front of an elevator (one of the few light scenes of this episode) must still be fresh in his mind, that and the aftermath of the long occupation of Narn by the Centauri. So G'Kar confesses to Morden that his desire is to rid the universe of his people's enemies, and he does that with an impassioned speech, whose violent words are barely tempered by the deep-voiced delivery:
" I want justice."
"To suck the marrow off their bones, and grind their skulls to powder."
"To tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow their ground with salt. To completely, utterly erase them."
Morden's sudden interest would be chilling even if I didn't know anything about him: at this very crucial point in time, G'Kar avoids falling into the trap only when he adds that, apart from his people's safety, he cares about nothing else. Not enough for his visitor's purposes, so the man goes away, leaving a very puzzled Narn in his wake.
The mysterious Morden finally reaches his goal with Londo. The Centauri Ambassador has just recovered the Eye, a precious artifact with high symbolic value for the Republic, yet his delight is marred by the realization that the glorious past of the Centauri is only a memory. His romantic yearnings and aspirations are crushed under the weight of harsh reality. So, once asked The Question, he pours all of his frustrations and regrets on the other man:
"I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power. I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or to look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want .. I want it all back, the way that it was."
Morden's satisfied smile seals Londo's fate. This is just the beginning, but there is no turning back from this road.
Even on first viewing it's easy to understand that, and the knowledge is reinforced once Morden brings back the stolen Eye to a disconsolate Londo, certain that the loss of the artifact will mean the end of his career.
When the Ambassador tries to follow the other man in the corridor, finding it deserted, and asks how to contact his newfound ally, only Morden's voice comes back assuring Londo that "We will find you." And it sounds like a dire warning.
On a parallel track, the Centauri Lord Kiro – whose family once owned the Eye – pines for his lost past as well, but in a more self-centered way: his intention is to steal the artifact and use it to gain absolute power once back home. His figure takes second place, though, before his aunt, Lady Ladira: a seer, capable of precognitive flashes from the future.
Kiro jokes with Londo about an old prediction from his aunt, who announced he would be killed by shadows: when the Raiders he allied himself with try to escape with the Eye, their ship is destroyed by a strange vessel. A dark, rippling spider-shape that disappears soon afterwards. Yet the Eye is shortly afterwards delivered to Londo by a smiling Morden. Even a first-time viewer understands that there must be a link – an ominous one...
Just as ominous as another prediction from Ladira, about the destruction of Babylon 5: the woman is able to share her vision with Sinclair, warning him about the flexibility of time and the possibility of avoiding such a future.
A troubling prediction that throws further shadows on a darkening picture...